Zara’s physical footprint in China shrinks as digital strategy wins big

Zara’s parent company, Inditex, saw its profits more than double in China last year as the Spanish fast fashion label turbocharged its digital marketing strategy.

Until 2019, China was home to Zara’s second biggest brick-and-mortar presence after Spain. But since then, the number of Zara stores in the nation has dwindled drastically as the fast fashion powerhouse was quick to cotton on to the growth of e-commerce in China. Of Zara’s 123 net store closures globally last year, 40% were in China.

“Inditex for several years has adopted a more digital-first strategy in China given the structural trends in the market there and the huge importance of e-commerce,” Richard Chamberlain, an analyst at Royal Bank of Canada, told reporters.

The British chain stormed onto China’s livestream scene at the end of last year with a sleek 5-hour broadcast on Douyin that attracted an impressive 1.22 million views. The whole style of the shoot, with its multiple camera angles and careful blocking, sits in stark contrast to the frenetic pace Chinese shoppers are used to seeing in commercial livestreams.

The performance earned Zara major brownie points among Chinese shoppers, who said the livestream felt like “an online meeting for brand fans, without the noise and discounts of other live broadcast rooms”. This drove home the success of the digital-first strategy, and the brand has since kept up the good work with weekly livestreams on Douyin.

“We view this initiative positively… given the widespread integration of digital platforms into people’s everyday lives, we believe that leveraging platforms like Douyin can effectively engage Chinese consumers,” says Firdaus Ibrahim, equity analyst at CFRA Research.

Chinese consumers have acted as the perfect testing ground for the digital-first strategy. With plans to launch livestreams in the US and UK markets in due course, Zara is now spearheading the fashion industry’s march into livestreaming as a global approach to marketing.


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